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Written feedback

June 26, 2013

As a freelancer at various places, I often get asked to provide written feedback for people’s appraisals. They often seem to land in my inbox in clusters  and if I get too many all at the same time it becomes onerous. But an occasional one here and there can be a useful distraction.

I never do it anonymously and I always tick the box that I’m happy for it to be shared with the individual. Or I send it directly to them. Hopefully none of what I say will be a complete surprise, but of course seeing things in black and white can concentrate the mind. And thankfully most of it is affirmative – and a chance to give people that positive reinforcement that no one is immune to. But I don’t shy away from saying what I think.
Sometimes it is easy, other times I really have to rack my brains to illustrate my bletherings with real and recent examples. Because I don’t think it is fair to assert things without giving some kind of context – apart from my general introductory impressions – XYZ is a pleasure to work with; she is polite, punctual and positive in outlook. Kind of thing. But when I need to say XYZ has difficulty making decisions, or appears unable to understand the most basic of facts, or demonstrates a jaw dropping disregard for others’ feelings then I feel it only right that I back it up with some evidence.

It pisses me off no end when people don’t give honest feedback. It is a waste of everyone’s time, including your own (assuming you are writing it), if you just rattle off some bland, say-nothing rubbish. You have usually been chosen to feedback on this person because you do interact with them in some way and this is a chance to actually say how you think they are doing. It is only your opinion. You will only be one voice in a number, but if the same things crop up in others’ feedback, then perhaps it is an area worth exploring. Too often I hear everyone saying that someone is shit at their job and yet come feedback time, there is nothing negative recorded. “Oh, I didn’t want to be the one that made them lose their job”. That seems an incredibly negative view of the feedback process – surely the point of it is to help the individual determine how to get better at their job? (Or, in the case of many folk, even better.) And for the organisation to help them do that.

So it takes time. When  it is  to be written, I am sometimes given a template to work from, other times it is just freeform. But however it is asked for, I do try to take the time to give a constructive responsive if I have enough experience working with the individual to do so.

And I find it a good lesson to actually stop and assess someone over the last six months or whatever. Particularly if previously I have fed back a number of “areas for growth” or “development opportunities” (aka shortcomings) It is salutary to realise XYZ no longer does that and has taken on board the feedback and has developed. Not as a result of anything I’ve done, but because they have listened to the feedback and actually acted on it. Or got help to act on it. However they have done it matters not to me, but the very fact they have is energising. And proof that we can change if we put our mind to it. Sometimes we just don’t realise we need to and it takes a feedback session to point it out.
And then it makes them better at their job and I imagine happier in their work.

It’s a win for them, a win for me and a win for the business.

This lovely casual dining space on Westbourne Grove was perfect. Lots of tasty sounding dishes, and everything on the plates all around looking really appetising –  fresh, colourful, light. But chips available too. And portions are big. I had parmesan crusted chicken with fennel slaw and it was perfect. My friend had sweetcorn fritters, bacon and roasted tomatoes. A great blend of comfort fried food with healthy veg! The wine slipped down a treat as did the peanut brittle for afters. Service was first rate – Ozzies doing what they do so well – that informal, informed, efficient and friendly mix they get so right. Is that racist? Perhaps, but at least it is complimentary.

I want to go back soon. Four and a half stars.

Oh, I am. But that’s just my little company so it doesn’t really count. But if I were CEO of a massive mega company then I’d love to try out a few ideas.

Top Ten Things I’d do if I were CEO

  1. Ban all meetings for a month. If you want to talk to people, get up and do it now. Don’t set a date for two weeks hence.
  2. When meetings are reintroduced have no chairs so no one can get too comfortable
  3. Insist that calendars can only be filled to a maximum of 50% of the time – that leaves time for actually doing work
  4. Insist that managers are visible and available on the ‘shop floor’ for 50% of their time
  5. Disable the reply to all button. If you want to copy everyone in, then you’re going to have to add their names manually.
  6. Ban hot desking so at least we can know where people are supposed to be
  7. Introduce ‘Godsends’ who do all the stuff required to oil the wheels and make things happen but always takes longer than you think. So it would be like having lots of shared PAs.
  8. Reintroduce the tea lady who will come round with refreshments’ twice a day and ensure all company gossip is spread between all the different departments
  9. Rip out all the horrible, noisy hot air hand driers and return to towels
  10. Ban eating al desco; insist everyone stops for lunch and sits at communal tables to chat and is given a free basic lunch (that also stops the annoying inequality of high level meetings getting free lunches, but lower echelons still having to buy their own even when asked to work over lunchtime)

Related rants on the pointlessness of meetings, and how to organsie them badly, corporate jargon, and general frustration with office life

Old school equality

June 16, 2013

Today is Father’s day so I thought I would recount the advice my father gave my husband on managing people at work. He had managed sales teams, office teams and was a Director of an agricultural seeds and feedstuffs company for much of his working life. And he always believed you had to treat people equally. He had as much respect for the men on the floor of the mill as the general manager of the company.
And similarly he told my husband that he must never show favour to one girl in the office compared to the others. And therein lies the first red flag. When he was working, the administrative staff were all female and referred to as ‘girls’. And it wouldn’t have occurred to him that that in itself might be perjorative to some. That he would never have referred to the men in the mill as ‘boys’.
But I digress. The heart of the lesson he relayed to my husband relates to the girls. Not in the office, but packing in the mill.
One of my Dad’s colleagues had gone in to the room where all the women were working and put his arm around one of them had a quick grope. My father found out because one of the other women came to my dad to complain. But not about the fact one of her colleagues had been sexually assaulted by a more senior male.
She complained that she hadn’t. It wasn’t right that this man should show favouritism like that.
So the lesson my father was passing on to his son-in-law was that if you’re going to squeeze one woman’s tits, you have to squeeze them all…..

The Globe

The Globe

I love the Globe and it is a wonderful setting, but this all-female production was sadly lacking. It started with an embarrasingly bad drunk scene and I feared it would be a cringeworthy evening, but it did improve. Somehow there was little real connection between the characters – not helped by them playing a number of roles each so it was hard to keep track – but some fine individual performances. Unfortunately they were not enough to carry this play which was directed as a farce rather than a story with high comedy moments and had me at times thinking it was an amateur production.
“If I be waspish, best beware my sting.” Two stars.
The Globe-trotters this evening

The Globe-trotters this evening

One Saturday night we went to our local restaurant Charlotte’s Place to celebrate hubby’s birthday. We have been a few times over the years but it has never really done it for me. Mostly because of the lack of atmosphere, although when a load of us took over the downstairs for a birthday celebration then it was buzzing.
But it gets great write ups – has won some award for best local restaurant- and we want to support it. Have to say hubby has always been a big fan and we all know he is the connoisseur of cuisine in our house.
 
Pollen Street Social is the darling of the critics, a restaurant for those who know about food and everyone wants to go there. But the real reason I put them together is that both of them miss the mark when it comes to service and to some extent atmosphere although we had great times at both.

The food is “technically good” in both places, (better in Pollen Street) but that is not enough for me. It is a given that we want good food. What elevates a meal to a fabulous occasion is the service. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what Pollen Street did wrong – the reception staff were friendly, realxed and welcoming – excellent indeed. But the waiting staff too formal. Trying too hard perhaps. No real engagement and interaction. A lack of individuality.

Whereas Charlotte’s Place went the extra mile to stun me with their disinterest in service. That is a bit harsh as our food waitress was OK, it was the sommellier that left me with my mouth open. She opened our bottle of champagne behind hubby’s head, poured herself a quarter of a wine glass, tasted it and then asked if hubby would like to taste. I said that she could tell us what it was like as she’d just tasted it. “Of course. I wouldn’t want to give you anything that wasn’t perfect.” I didn’t want to ruin the atmosphere that evening by complaining, but I have never ever had my bottle of champagne tasted for me. I don’t remember ever having a wine waiter drink my wine ( altho hubby says it has happened a couple of times when decanting a red – but then just a tiny spot). After she’d poured our glasses, she then took the remains of what she’d poured herself upstairs.
Now, I’ve had them smell corks, but never take a good portion. So I wrote to Charlotte’s Place to complain. I see it as a sign that they don’t really want feedback as you can’ t even email direct from their website let alone leave a public comment. So old school snail mail it was. And give them their due they rang me back. But there was no real interest in my experience – apparently that is the correct way to do it, and the person who rang me is a sommellier himself with 10 years experience and this is how they do it all good restaurants. It is the correct way. And our wine waitress had come with him from his last place and was excellent. So I must be wrong. Funny she didn’t do it for any of the subsequent bottles then. Funny how she didn’t simply explain this is the way we are taught to do it. Funny how she didn’t smile all evening or try to engage with us. It is a cold impersonal place because the staff are not a happy bunch.
Anyway, they have marked our account so that next time we’ll get a free round of drinks. Next time? You must be joking.

A fair few months ago I had a fabulous Saturday  – the man arrived to fix the turd grinder in the loft and although now nearly a grand worse off at least we can use the upstairs showerroom and toilet again. Amidst his suctioning I went to step class at the gym  – a longstanding feature of Saturday mornings when not injured. A lot of the loyalty hinges around meeting a group of friends beforehand and chatting, but that week with macerator man’s arrival I just sped straight to class.

I was recovering from injury and the physio had put me through my paces on the Thursday and I was still feeling it. And then the Killers’ “Human”  came on. It is one of my favourite tunes and I don’t know why but it always makes me think of Rosie. I associate it with her somehow as I did love to watch her dance (the song anthem is “Are we human or are we dancers?” ) and in my head I see her dancing to it, even though in real life I probably never did. I have no idea if she even liked the song –  it’s just my own linking of her to it.  And it makes me sad to think of her death and happy to think of her dancing at the same time. But mostly sad. And it makes me grateful to be alive and I try harder in the step class.

Came home and showered and then friends from way back arrive with two of their lovely teenage children. We reminisce, laugh and talk about parenting teens. We are quite a few years ahead of them in the parenting stakes, so they can learn from our mistakes – or at least take heart from them.

During lunch our daughter reminds us of when the two Dads would go out jogging on Monday nights. When her Dad got back she would ask how the run went, and he would regale her with ludicrous tales of how our friend would run in all different ways-  backwards, hopping, spinning, jumping. And she believed him of course . Because you believe everything your Dad says at that age.

The following day at school, her best friend Rosie would enquire how the run went – and our daughter would relay the information and they would spend the entire break recreating the high knees, the hops and skips that had allegedly taken place. It was a lovely memory of that era and of Rosie and Georgina during that innocent childhood time when so much of life is taken up by playing games, making up stories and acting them out.

I relate this story simply to say how we do remember those who are no longer with us; this particular tale is about Rosie, but posting it today is in part prompted by it being the day before the anniversary of when Anna was stillborn 27 years ago to close friends.

Lots of random things can spark a memory, or sometimes for no apparent reason at all they will pop in to my head. Tinned mandarin oranges always make me think of my Mum’s Mum. As does lavender, purple clothes, large oval sunglasses and paying more for better quality. Sugared almonds are my Mum as are potato cakes, avocados, Dean Martin and gin and tonic. Father is linked to bowties and when I cry at opera it is partly for him I am crying. His mother is recalled every time I pass the hall table that was once hers. A lad I went out with for a couple of weeks comes to mind with tractors, as does another lad in the year below. No 7 lipstick makes me think of Rosie’s Grandma (why?? I think I may have given her one once).. The list goes on.

I have blogged about the death of certain patients having a huge impact on me, but all deaths leave a mark. It is the living memories they provoke even years after their deaths that are testament to their impact as a human being. Hopefully to remind me that it could all go to shit tomorrow; no money or lifestyle choice can guarantee to prevent tragedy.

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